Written by Gladwin J. Singh
“Look at the stars,
look how they shine for you,
And everything you do,
yea they were all YELLOW!”
As mentioned in previous articles, I have been playing this game for a good year now. I’ve only bought one complete set of expansion: The Path to Carcosa. It took me a few months to get hold off all the expansions, including ‘The Return to the Path to Carcosa’ expansion. In fact, I am writing this a day after completing the campaign. I lost.
In a nutshell, the lore behind ‘The Path to Carcosa,’ mostly came from the works of Robert W. Chambers’ ‘The King in Yellow,’ written in the late 1800’s. The book is a collection of short stories centering the Ancient One known as ‘Hastur’ or ‘The King in Yellow’ or the ‘Repairer of Reputations,’ or ‘He who shall not be named’ or ‘Lord of Carcosa.’ It was said that Chambers also borrowed his works from Ambrose Bierce’s ‘An inhabitant of Carcosa.’ H.P Lovecraft mentioned ‘Hastur’ and ‘Lake Hali’ in his works as well. This is kind of how Hastur became part of the Cthulhu Mythos. I may not be entirely accurate about this and I do invite readers to fill in the gaps and correct my limited contextual and historical knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos.
If you’re new in the game and you want to take the deep plunge into expansions (TONS OF EXPANSIONS), you may want to consider your own personal interest in playing AH: LCG first. Personally, I enjoyed the game for its narrative, theme and the occasional deck-building. Therefore, when looking for an expansion to continue my Arkham adventures, I wanted a campaign that would offer a rich story. I’m not just talking about action-packed narrative. As a child, I was hooked on playing Steve Jackson’s and Ian Livingstone’s roleplaying Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. The narrative was amazing. Playing AH: LCG brought back my childhood memories of playing those game books. In fact, AH:LCG feels like a gamebook, but with cards, investigation vibes and an insane difficulty level, even if you play it on EASY mode.
And so I began researching. By research, I mean YouTube review videos, Facebook posts, and forums. Bear in mind that this was sometime in mid 2019 when all the expansions for The Circle Undone campaign was just completed, but not exactly available in Malaysia and The Dream Eaters campaign wasn’t even announced yet. The only thee campaign expansions available in my country at that time was:
-The 1st Expansion: The Dunwich Legacy
-The 2nd Expansion: The Path to Carcosa
-The 3rd Expansion: The Forgotten Age
A lot of the reviews pointed towards The Path to Carcosa and after reading the details of the expansion, I made my decision. Madness; Insanity; Delusions; Paranormal; Mystery. I was hooked! I bought the deluxe expansion and WOW! The first two scenarios from the deluxe expansion convinced me to splurge for the entire campaign. Since this is the only other campaign I have besides the core box, I’ve been playing it multiple times now, trying out different investigators and exploring other paths to Carcosa.
Here’s a breakdown of the entire campaign in chronological order, with a brief teaser. Hopefully it convinces you to try the campaign, but at the same time, not spoil the story for you.
|1||Curtain Call||While watching ‘The King in Yellow’ play, you fall into a deep sleep only to wake up to a theatre in disarray and ‘The Stranger’ watching you.|
|2||The Last King||You arrive at a dinner party to investigate the production cast of The King in Yellow, but not everyone is who they ‘seem’ to be.|
|3||Echoes of the Past||Turns out the play was once performed in Arkham many years ago and you hope to seek answers in the Miskatonic Historical Society, but you are not alone in your search.|
|4||The Unspeakable Oath||Your findings take you to the infamous Arkham Asylum, hoping to seek more answers about the play from a stagehand crew who is currently a patient there.|
|5||A Phantom of Truth||Your investigation takes you to Paris, hoping to find Nigel Engram, the director of the play, but something is chasing you…or rather, you are chasing something?|
|6||The Pallid Mask||Your discoveries lead you into the Catacombs of Paris, hoping to find the answers that will lead you into the realm of Carcosa.|
|7||Black Stars Rise||Your vivid dreams of the island of Mont. St. Michel may possibly be the only gateway into Carcosa…|
|8||Dim Carcosa||In the land of Carcosa, you must find a way to stop the King in Yellow once and for all before his madness reigns on Earth.|
What I like about The Path to Carcosa campaign
- Tons of replay ability because of the different decisions that you make throughout your campaign which will lead you to a different path into Carcosa.
- Tons of narrative for each scenario. Even on the cards itself! You get to immerse yourself in the story and the characters you encounter throughout your journey.
- Playing the entire campaign and not knowing full well if every scenario is actually happening to your investigator or just another delusion. I really like that part of the game. Honestly, as I went through each scenario, especially ‘The Unspeakable Oath,’ I couldn’t shake this feeling that my investigator was already a patient in the mental asylum all along. The narrative evoked the sense of distrust in myself.
- Like all games, a linear narrative is important in progressing a story. While the linear narrative is present in The Path to Carcosa, there is also the element of the ‘unreliable narrator’ which forces the player to question almost every scenario or decisions made.
- The ‘Hidden’ encounter cards that remain in your hand and a secret to you alone, which I thought enhanced the experience of the game. To give you an example, let’s say your friend needs your help to trigger a certain ability, but the hidden card prevents you from doing so. You can’t tell your friend why or what card you have in your hand. I always translated that part of the game as the investigators hidden weaknesses or mental condition that limits their ability during the game, as they delve deeper into the madness of the King in Yellow. This campaign focuses a lot on the theme of madness, delusions and insanity, as if basic weaknesses weren’t enough already.
- Trying to escape from a mental asylum with limited time. Seriously, very limited time especially if you are playing true solo. I escaped with one doom left on the Agenda almost every time. A very adrenaline packed scenario in my opinion.
- Exploring the catacombs of Paris! That scenario was fun and the replay value of the scenario alone is crazy because each location changes. You need to discover clues to move into new locations. You draw a new location from a ‘catacomb’s location’ deck and put it into play. Basically, you’ll never know which location you will enter at all for every game of that scenario. This mechanic of the game was spot on! Ohhh… if that wasn’t enough for you, check out the game designer’s Pallid Mask Challenge!
Setbacks and Dislikes:
- While I truly enjoyed this campaign, there is that ONE particular scenario that basically ends your entire campaign, forcing you to either restart or move on to a new campaign all together. You can’t even use a new character to continue the campaign. That bummed me out when I had spent hours advancing through every scenario. Thematically, I get it. But it really sucks the life force out of you.
- I was hoping for better player card pool that will allow me to build decks for Mystic and Survivor investigators, but the options were limited. If you are looking for better card pool, most players recommend ‘The Dunwich Legacy’ campaign. I only have the core box and the entire Carcosa cycle, which was not enough.
All in all, I genuinely enjoy role-playing games. When I first played The Night of the Zealot campaign, I was partially hooked into the LCG because of its role-playing narrative with some decisions and different resolutions. It brought back nostalgic feelings of playing the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, in which there were so many moments in the book where I had to choose a different path to take. Once I began my Carcosa campaign, I was completely immersed. Never have I played a game where I was genuinely concern about the decisions I made, the adrenaline rush from escaping and running away in certain scenarios, and the overall excitement of reading the narration of each scenario and the cards. If you thought that the NoTZ campaign was good, I invite you to try out the Carcosa campaign. I know that my opinions are pretty much one-sided, seeing as this is my only full campaign expansion of the AH:LCG. I am told that The Circle Undone and The Dream Eaters campaign are just as good as well in terms of its narrative and theme, along with a whole range of new mechanics. Let’s be real though. Unless you can afford to splurge on more than one campaign, my suggestion would be to read up on each expansion, do your ‘research’ and see which expansion suits you best, theming, deck building, and/or narration wise. My entire Carcosa campaign cost me nearly MYR600, which is the equivalent of USD $144! I have a lot of cards now and it’s only increasing ever more. I’ve recently purchased the Jacqueline Fine, Stella Clark and Winifred Habbamock Investigator Starter Decks, Murder at the Excelsior Hotel Standalone Scenario Pack and more recently, The Innsmouth Conspiracy Deluxe Expansion. Hastur may be the King in Yellow, but we Arkham LCG players are definitely the King of ‘TOO MANY CARDS.’ I used to think I had a lot of Pokemon TCG cards (which I still keep). That was until I got introduced to AH:LCG.
Before I conclude, here’s a lame joke for ya:
If you are a worshipper of Hastur, AKA, The King in Yellow or AKA, He Who Shall Not Be Named, what would be your favorite worship song to sing for your beloved Ancient One?
Yellow, by Coldplay. [MOU1]
Fun Fact: There is an old British colonial mansion in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, called ‘Carcosa Seri Negara.’ Originally built in the late 1800’s, its purpose was to house the first Resident General of Malaysia, Sir Frank Swettenham. He named the mansion ‘Carcosa’ based on his inspiration from Robert Chamber’s ‘The King in Yellow,’ which mentioned the word Carcosa. The word ‘Carcosa’ comes from the two Italian words “Cara” and “Casa” which means ‘Desirable Dwellings.” ‘Seri Negara’ means ‘Beautiful Country.’ He decided to name the place ‘Carcosa’ because the mansion was his desired place to live in for a very long time. It was surrounded by luscious gardens, trees, and a lake as well.
To end, while The Path to Carcosa is still my most desired and enjoyable campaign, I wonder if ‘The Innsmouth Conspiracy’ can top that… only time will tell.
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